Chapter

Human Nature and Human Rights

Geoffrey Lloyd

in Ancient Worlds, Modern Reflections

Published in print February 2004 | ISBN: 9780199270163
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602276 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199270163.003.0011
Human Nature and Human Rights

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The concept of nature has a history, one that begins in ancient Greek polemic, where the self-styled naturalist philosophers and certain medical writers employed the term phusis (nature) to define the areas of enquiry over which they claimed to be expert and used that idea to put down and defeat rival claimants to knowledge, particularly from among traditional wise men. That concept of nature has no exact equivalent in ancient China, although there we find terms to describe what happens spontaneously, to distinguish human characters and so on. Neither ancient Greeks nor Chinese have a concept that matches that of human rights. Rather the key notions in that area that both ancient societies use relate to responsibilities, to equity, and to justice. This study concludes that they provide a more adequate framework than the modern concept of rights in which to discuss the problems.

Keywords: equity; human nature; human rights; justice; responsibilities

Chapter.  6004 words. 

Subjects: Ancient Philosophy

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